July 13, 2024

You’re the Boss: Why We Don’t Usually Look for Experience When We Hire

Sustainable Profits

TerraCycle’s staff has grown quickly. In 2008, we had about 35 employees, all in the United States. We now have about 100, including 70 or so in the United States and 30 abroad, managing operations in 14 foreign countries. Given our anticipated growth, I expect we will have 125 employees around the world by the end of 2012.

I guess some of my views about hiring are unconventional. While I have lectured at many of the major business schools in America, including Harvard and Wharton, I have no formal management training. Most of what I have learned has been through trial and error. And I’ve made plenty of errors, so many that the list is almost endless — for example, hiring senior folks who dazzled me with their credentials and experience until I figured out that they were positioning themselves to take my job.

At TerraCycle, after many lessons learned, we generally prefer to hire people who are just out of college or who have a year or two of work behind them. In part, we do this because then we can afford to hire two or three junior people for the price of one senior hire. More often than not, I find that those who come with experience and credentials have set ways; they don’t bring as much energy or out-of-the-box thinking as the untrained junior staff. That is not to say that senior people are not valuable. They are, but more in roles like science, finance and law, where experience is a must.

Of course, strong quantitative and communication skills are essential, and in the more senior positions, experience and credentials are essential. But in building a global team, I’ve found that people who have fire in their belly, who come to learn, and who are open to adaptation are the ones who flourish.

We try not to spend too much money on recruiting. We post most of our job openings on our own Web site and free or inexpensive Internet sites like Monster and Craigslist. And we also don’t pay recuriters — the one time we did, it was the equivalent of flushing $75,000 down the toilet.

Once we get to the interview stage, we let a number of people talk to the candidate, but then we move to a decision relatively quickly. While I don’t do most of the hiring anymore, I can generally tell pretty quickly if someone is right for the company. If you were to visit our offices, you’d see that we range from young to old, liberal to conservative, and creative to brainy but everyone fits within our emerging culture. It’s not so much that we’re looking for a type of person, but we do want to gauge the candidate’s work commitment and sense of individual responsibility. Does the person recognize his or her place in the organization?

In the early years, when cash was really tight, I used to offer stock options fairly liberally to new recruits. We are now re-working our option plan to be more in line with our company’s more mature status. One of my goals is for all employees, on every level, to participate in profit sharing by early next year — and for senior staff to continue to benefit from stock options. More on that in a future post.

Tom Szaky is the chief executive of TerraCycle, which is based in Trenton, N.J.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4767dc6f787b74a74bd346c7e6132b12

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